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That would be a great place to be. The fun part would be trying to figure out what was true and what was a tall tale. I really enjoy your writing and you've inspired me to write more.


If you subscribe to the podcast on The Moth website you can listen for free.


Terrific story. I very much enjoy your writing!

Job Mudflap

I caught the second half of the story on NPR as I was running errands and totally thought it was true. It really improved my opinion of you. Maybe you shouldn't have come clean. :-D

Jeremy Keeshin

First, 'weird' is spelled wrong. Second, the fact that this is a "tall tale" raises new and troubling questions about truth in our society. It was more fun thinking it was true and that the Washington Post was printing made up articles:


Awesome. Loved it.

If you're a fan of Malcom's entertaining speeches, watch this one that he presented at TED in 2004:



You are fantastic. I could probably listen to you speak for hours.

john of sparta

of course, good stories beat the
truth. usually, the truth is boring,
ex: "what your mama told you." no one wants to be reminded that
"mama tried to teach you better"....however, everyone
wants to hear a tall tale.
string theory, for example.


Now that he's at the New Yorker, he's been trying to fit "low-slung building" into as many articles as he can. Don't try to deny it Malcolm! We all see right through you!


Are journalists trying this out now?


Thanks Mordy, too funny


wait, which part of it is fictional? just the bit about a rookie reporter getting an unvetted and inaccurate business story into the Post? because you've been telling that "perverse and often baffling" bit for over a decade. i guess no one noticed it the first time (or six) around because you hadn't become famous for writing things that could potentially have a significant influence on the market yet. apparently, once you attain a certain status as a journalist, you are no longer allowed to be funny without a disclaimer. that's why i'm keeping my profile so low.

for the record, there's nothing baffling about mollusks. they're almost elegant in their simplicity. it's those cephalopods that'll really set your head spinning.


I have noticed you have not written much for the New Yorker recently. Are you working on a new book ?

Fred Redekop


Ah, such is life. This was pretty much the only time in several years I've hear that show, and for some reason, I got a huge kick out of the story. I missed the intro, so I didn't know it had been recorded for any reason other than the show, and I missed the end, so I didn't know it was told by someone of whom I had heard. At any rate, it's a good story, even if it's a good fiction story.


I thought this was interesting:

Stewart/Gladwell Feud Heats Up
March 18, 2008

The ongoing feud between The Daily Show’s John Stewart and The New Yorker’s Malcolm Gladwell took a turn for the ugly Monday evening. At a St. Patrick’s Day event in Manhattan, Mr. Gladwell reportedly responded to a question concerning Mr. Stewart saying, “Don’t talk to me about that sneaky little f---.” Mr. Stewart released a response through his publicist Tuesday morning stating, “I regret that my relationship with Malcolm Gladwell has become such a public matter and I hope that this issue can be resolved amicably.” Regardless, it now looks like this pseudo-celebrity quarrel is headed towards the realm of the down-and-dirty.

The origins of the dispute between Mr. Stewart and Mr. Gladwell remain unclear, but the falling out seems to stem from an argument over a Hampton’s dog park. What we do know is that both Mr. Stewart and Mr. Gladwell each donated over $7,000 to establish a public dog park in East Hampton, NY. Reportedly, Mr. Gladwell was upset when the area of the park dedicated to his contribution was given to Mr. Stewart. An unnamed resident of East Hampton said, “[Mr. Gladwell] was furious that [Mr. Stewart] got his southern light.” Donors have sections of the park dedicated to their contributions in a pie-chart fashion. Gary DePersia, president of Hampton’s With Heart, the non-profit through which both Mr. Stewart and Mr. Gladwell donated to the park, declined comment on the matter, citing confidentiality and tax issues.

The result has been an unseemly row in a blue-blood town whose residents do not appreciate scandal. One resident, again unnamed, said, “They can have their money back, we don’t need a dog park badly enough to have this kind of fuss.” It seems that the nouveau riche are invading the Hampton’s once again.

Mr. Gladwell denies making any of the anti-Semitic remarks attributed to him, and the reliability of the witnesses that reported those remarks are now coming under question. For his part, Mr. Stewart claims that he was not the individual who vandalized the mail room in Mr. Gladwell’s apartment building early last week. Mr. Stewart declined to comment on the recently released security camera footage.

Mr. Gladwell’s comments Monday confirm that there is some conflict between these two gentlemen. And this is likely not the last we will hear of it.


yes, that is some very interesting libel--er, writing--you've got there, sam. is someone at the onion trying to start a splinter faction?


Great story. Thanks Malcolm.


A search indicates that this phrase has appeared exactly once in the Washington Post.


Lee Lewis

Malcolm, I have an idea for your next article... One that should not be put at the bottom of your list of ideas (wink)

The happiness and well-being of our species highly correlates to two things: how altruistic we are and our sense of support from our respective surrounding communities.

Have you ever heard of eco villages? They are coming up all over the world, and hundreds in states across the US, some very close or in urban areas! What's behind an eco village? The desire to live closely to other humans and the earth in a supportive symbiotic relationship, supporting biodiversity, sustainable permaculture, and the dimensions of social sustainability.

It seems the mode of capitalist thinking and lifestyle in which our lives are ingrained has hindered our capacity to communicate effectively with other humans and live in a healthy way that supports life on earth and can be continued for generations to come.

I ask you to write something on this because people need to know that, hey, this, isn't all there is. There is a community for everyone these days. Those alienated in big city life or a in job that is only gratifying for the salary, do not have to be disillusioned into believing our options are as limited as it may superficially seem.


This anecdote is not as funny when you realize it's not true, and after hearing the story be told it's clear you want people to believe relevant points in the story to be true.

I worked in a newspaper abroad where the reporters and editors really did have rather lax and humorous exploits. In one instance socialist page editor authored a fake column under the name of an obscure Belgian bolshevik railing about cameras in the workplace (we had them). In another a reporter made up an entire Q&A internview of a fake editor of a literary 'zine called "Caffeine Soup" who rails against idiot children of wealthy business owners (a direct reference to the son of the publisher of the paper).

I enjoyed the "yarn" but I think there was a play on truthiness that was a conscious attempt to portray yourself as a workplace renegade at an austere institution. How cool is that? (Not as much if you actually didn't do many of the things you describe.)

When one learns that -- according to the colleague you worked with at the time -- there was no "horse race" to insert a hackneyed phrase into news articles, then the quality of humor is deflated considerably.

I enjoy a good yarn, but I think it's unfair to portray people who might have taken some of the points as "gospel" to be humorless "literal minded" fools or whatnot.

In the day of "embellished" memoirs and Jayson Blair-like violations of journalistic ethics, I think it behooves major players in the industry to be a little more honest in the subtext of their "yarns".


Wow, where has the spirit of good fun gone? For that matter, are we going to do away with the American oral tradition? In the South, we assume that a good story should be partially fictional. It's a rhetorically distinct form. People who get upset about this must be the same people who don't recognize Genesis as metaphysical poetry. This is entertainment, folks. If you don't like it it's a failure of execution, not honesty.


Jack Shafer really has no sense of humor at all, does he?

Shouldn't that be disqualifying in a writer?

(Probably can't hold his liquor either.)


I think there an important distinction here. When people spin entertaining yarns on the back porch of some Southern shotgun shack the listeners know what's going on. And people who narrate homespun yarns aren't high-profile American journalists working in the truth industry.

Perhaps the problem here is Mr. Gladwell is trying to be both an entertainer and a journalist. Perhaps this leads to a misunderstand of when he's making things up and when he isn't.

And again, it's unfair to turn people into curmudgeons or "literal minded" simpletons for not being able to distinguish truth from fiction in this context. People who spin yarns in the good old fashioned "American oral tradition" don't work as reporters for The New Yorker.

I think this is a fair observation.

Kate Gallagher

Mr. Gladwell, I just sent the comment below into Slate re Jack Shafer's "The Fibbing Point" and thought I would pass it along to you directly.

"Thank you for this very worthwhile story. Yes, the venue issue is significant …. What goes at The Moth (an intimate setting populated by insiders sharing inside jokes) doesn’t go so well on National Public Radio (whose audience can’t see the winks and may miss the disclaimers if they tune in late or tune out early). But in either case, it is disturbing to this Gladwell fan to find that someone whose nonfiction work reflects an intense desire to discover, analyze, and illuminate complex relationships and dynamics – and whose research and theories are presented so thoroughly and persuasively that most readers regard them (and him) as 100 percent credible – would have so little regard for actual events and even less for the institutions and individuals cast in the unfavorable as well as unlikely light of his “tall tales.” My Gladwell books are dog-eared, highlighted and loaned only to the most reliable friends, and I always look for his byline in The New Yorker; this piece in Slate won’t change that. But for the sake of the reading and listening public, whenever and wherever this well-respected and prolific author feels disinclined to let the facts get in the way of a good story, he should call his account what is -- fiction."

P.S. I look forward to more articles and books, whatever you call them.

Sam Spiven

Come on people, loosen up. This Moth thing is not a Jayson Blair/Janet Cooke type thing.

It's more akin to Shakespeare writing himself into the translation of King James' Bible in acrostic form. A little literary joke.

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  • I'm a writer for the New Yorker magazine, and the author of four books, "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference", "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking" and "Outliers: The Story of Success." My latest book, "What the Dog Saw" is a compilation of stories published in The New Yorker. I was born in England, and raised in southwestern Ontario in Canada. Now I live in New York City.

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